Cauliflower has always been one of my favorite vegetables, especially when simmered slowly in onions in tomato sauce, a dish my Sicilian mother would often serve during Lent. I had originally planned to make this dish last night, but with my brother and his wife coming over for dinner, I thought I needed something more substantial for a main course. I looked through my files and found the answer: a recipe from television’s Iron Chef Michael Symon came to mind: cauliflower sausage gratin.
Sausage plays a supporting role in this dish, adding a savory succulence to the mild nutlike flavors of the cauliflower. A sweet tomato sauce with Vidalia onions and a buttery Parmigiano-panko crust complete the cast.
Cauliflower Sausage Gratin Adapted from Michael Symon
3/4 pound Fennel Italian Sausage (removed from the casings)
1 medium head Cauliflower (about 2 pounds; cut in to small florets)
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)
1 medium Onion (small diced)
4 Garlic cloves (minced)
28-ounce can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
2/3 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage as you go, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add cauliflower to the pot and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Depending on how much fat is left in the pan from browning the sausage, you may need to add some olive oil.
To the pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions become soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. When the onions are almost done, add the garlic, stirring to make sure the garlic does not brown.
Add the crushed tomatoes with their liquid, along with the sausage and any remaining juices. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and give it a taste, adding additional salt and pepper if necessary. Mix in the parsley, minus 1 tablespoon, and then pour the whole mixture in to a 13×9 baking dish.
In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the sausage and cauliflower, dot with butter, and bake until golden brown on top and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.
Garnish with parsley.
Wine Pairing: Morellino di Scansano, Merlot